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Toileting (or using the potty) is one of the most basic physical needs of young children. It is also one of the most difficult topics of communication among parents, child care providers, and health care professionals when asked to determine the "right" age a child should be able to successfully and consistently use the toilet.
Most agree that the methods used to potty train can have major emotional effects on children. The entire process-from diapering infants to teaching toddlers and preschoolers about using the toilet-should be a positive one. Often, and for many reasons, toilet learning becomes an unnecessary struggle for control between adults and children. Many families feel pressured to potty train children by age two because of strict child care program policies, the overall inconvenience of diapering, or urging from their pediatricians, early childhood columnists, researchers, other family members, friends, etc.
The fact is that the ability to control bladder and bowel functions is as individual as each child. Some two-year-olds are fully potty trained, and some are not. But those that aren't should not be made to feel bad about it. There are also many cultural differences in handling potty training, therefore it is important that families and program staff sensitively and effectively communicate regarding these issues.
The purpose of toilet learning is to help children gain control of their body functions. If a child is ready, the process can provide a sense of success and achievement. Here are some helpful hints on determining when young children are ready to begin the potty training process and suggestions on how to positively achieve that task.
Ready, set, go!
Children are most likely ready to begin toilet learning when they:
Become a cheerleader
- show a preference for clean diapers-a preference adults can encourage by frequent diaper changing and by praising children when they come to you for a change.
- understand when they have eliminated and know the meaning of terms for body functions. For example, "wet," "pee," "poop," and "b.m." are words commonly used by children to describe bladder and bowel functions.
- indicate that they need to use the potty by squatting, pacing, holding their private parts, or passing gas.
- show that they have some ability to hold it for a short period of time by going off by themselves for privacy when filling the diaper or staying dry during naps.
- There may be times during the learning process when children accidentally go in their diapers or training pants. This can be very distressing and may cause them to feel sad-especially if they have been successfully using the chair for some period of time. When this happens, change the diaper without admonition-...